Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum on the Future Battlespace submitted by Paul Beaver

  The United Kingdom rightly prides itself on the professionalism and expertise of its armed forces but cannot rest on its laurels as we move towards the next millennium.

  Doctrine and future operational art are already being focussed on the future security environment to create a user-friendly army capable of operating on any battlefield—but increasingly in a battlespace to which there are few given dimensions.

  There are six significant types of war which can be expected in the next two decades:

    —  alliance and coalition warfighting—the fully monty of warfare (there are only two European nations with the capability—the United Kingdom and France; it is worth remembering that the USA has cut its forces by a third since the Gulf conflict)

    —  national warfighting—protecting purely national interests

    —  operations other than war—peacemaking in Bosnia (Bosnia incidentally is here for a long time if Lebanon and Cyprus are considered; perhaps an increased role for the TA)

    —  counter-terrorism (non-state forces)—Northern Ireland (in South America, there is no distinction between drug trafficking and rebel `liberation' movements—Columbia and Peru)

    —  conflict prevention—peacekeeping in Cyprus (effective regional peacekeeping forces in Africa will continue to be and perhaps increase their reliance on US, France and British training and support

    —  post-conflict activities—support to the Kurds in Northern Iraq.

  As US and other NATO forces have been significantly reduced since 1990—by as much as 40 per cent overall—to redress the numbers for serious warfare would require large scale mobilisation and even greater reliance on reserves.

  It is worth noting that NATO allies which during the Cold War were heavily reliant on NATO reinforcements for home defence and had no capability to project forces, are now preparing for Coalition operations. Denmark and Norway are building helicopter-carrying frigates to support multi-national operations and Finland is now adopting NATO map marking and planning styles to better integrate with NATO peacekeeping operations.

  Irrespective of these warfare types, the future battlespace has to move from the late 20th Century industrial age to the new information age—and move quickly. It will have the following characteristics:

    —  multi-service dimension—joint operations

    —  expeditionary warfare

    —  new technology—there are no silver bullets

    —  there will be no such thing as an isolated battle

    —  media attention—the CNN factor (or the BBC World factor)

    —  fighting will take place 24 hours a day in all weathers (British Army TV advert makes this clear—all major battles won by UK forces since 1945 have been at night)

    —  new technologies must allow autonomous operations (winners in the Gulf were Apache attack helicopters, MLRS, main battle tanks with term imaging and wide deployment of Global Positioning System)

    —  new dimensions—depth: 250km; altitude: 21,000m

    —  fighting at arm's length.

  The future soldier—the future battlespace's new master will need:

    —  the best affordable equipment

    —  better training to use it

    —  increased responsibility to take the initiative

    —  first class support at home—schools, education, spouses

    —  equal opportunity to succeed—gender, sexual orientation

    —  to be technologically literate and well educated

  There are a number of technological priorities:

    —  ISTAR—intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance

    —  command and control, communications and computers, intelligence and information

    —  defence against chemical weapons of mass destruction—nuclear, biological, chemical

    —  flexible logistics

    —  improved lethality of weapons—first pass kill

    —  long-range, precision attack capabilities—beyond visual range

    —  mobility—strategic and tactical lift and support

    —  integrated Information Technology.


  The British Armed Forces will probably fight as part of a coalition or alliance in future conflicts and must be ready to stay in the battlespace of days, weeks, months or even years. In warfighting, it will always be necessary for British forces to use lethal force and kill others. There is no room for a dependence on non-lethal weapons and for equipment which better suits a gendarmerie. The British Army must be professionally trained and led, well equipped, flexible and ready.

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Prepared 10 September 1998